Travellers have never had so many travel accommodation options. From home swaps to AirBnB, couch-surfing to good old-fashioned hotel stays, the ways to stay and play around the world seem nearly endless. And yet, one tried and true accommodation is roaring back with a vengeance, reminding you that hey, we’re still here, and oh yeah, we’re cool. Yes, hostels are back baby!
Not that the old school youth hostel went anywhere of course. Hostel accommodation has been a mainstay for young travellers for decades. Perhaps you were that young backpacker, searching for hostels in Europe way back when with your BFF? Well, time to dust off the backpacks and purchase a few for the kids, because booking hostels for families is a great way to save money, meet other travellers and enjoy some beautiful and well-located rest stops on your travels.
Why Hostels for Families Make for an Excellent Travel Adventure
My husband and I started staying in backpacker hostels as student travelers many years ago. It was an affordable and fun way to travel. Back then, it wasn’t easy to book ahead, so we’d time our arrivals for check in-time, and line up for a room. Sometimes we shared accommodation in a dorm-style women or men-only rooms. Other times we’d luck out and get a couples room with its own shower facilities.
It was great. We met new friends, visited different parts of towns and cities in the countries we visited, and saved money during our travels. We’ve didn’t need to stop travelling this way when our kids were young. The hostel community is family-friendly!
Easy to Book
The two big hostel booking giants on the block are Hostelworld and Hostelling International. They have great search engines (and Hostelworld has an App) to find exactly what you’re looking for. In a sign of how things have changed in the world of hostelling accommodation, Hostelworld has even produced a feature video starring Mariah Carey to promote its hostel network. See, even divas are believers!
If you like to know where you’ll be laying your head every night, let your fingers do the research before you leave home. The Internet has changed so much about how we travel, including how we book hostels, read user reviews, and check out their quality without leaving your own home. Many ‘official’ hostels belong to organized networks and share online booking sites. They adhere to universal rules and regulations, and will require a membership or ‘guest card’. You can purchase the member card ahead of time or at check-in.
Independent hostels can be more colorful and unpredictable, but still offer a unique and cost-effective hostel experience. These hostels can be booked through www.hostels.com, and www.hostelbookers.com.
We’ve used Hostelling International to research and book our hostel stays, months in advance of our departure dates. HI’s system is secure and well-organized. You can search by dates and locations, and read traveler’s reviews. Plug in the address to Google Street View and look around the neighborhood. That will give you a feel for the area and its location. For high-season travel to popular destinations, booking ahead is an absolute must. Just like other accommodation, good hostels book up fast.
Some hostels may require a deposit to confirm a reservation, which does differ from hotel bookings. If you’ve planned carefully, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Private Hostel Rooms for Families
Dorm-style rooms are certainly not everyone’s cup of tea when you’re traveling with children or as a family. It’s not always practical or desirable to share accommodation. The great news is that you don’t have to. Hostels offer a wide variety of accommodation options that will appeal to family travelers and meet their needs.
Many hostels offer private rooms for couples and families, with private washroom facilities. These rooms will be more expensive then staying in shared dormitory-style rooms. But it’s at a cost that’s well below booking a hotel stay. Bedding and towels are included in your reservation, and you’ll have to make the beds yourselves, but that’s really a small price to pay. The Euros saved can pay for an extra night’s stay with that lake or mountain view, or allow for extra gelato.
Many hostels have communal play areas for kids to enjoy, and to meet other children from around the world. It’s amazing what can be learned from each other even if they don’t share the same language!
Breakfast is Included
Like most hotels in Europe, your hostel reservation includes breakfast in a communal dining hall. Some hostels may offer dinner menus on weekend evenings. From our experience, these breakfasts were the best time to load up for the day. Pack an extra muffin or fruit for a mid-morning snack.
Breakfasts are often served buffet style. There’s a wide variety of hot and cold beverages, fruit, muesli, yoghurts, baked goods and cereal. They may also feature hot menu items like porridge, eggs or local specialities. It’s not usually fancy, but we’ve eaten extremely well, walking away stuffed for the day ahead.
High Quality Stay
We’ve enjoyed wonderful stays in hostels in Scandinavia, France and Switzerland. The quality of the hostelling network in these countries is usually very high. The premises are clean and well-maintained, and the food offerings delicious. The hostel locations were also really well placed in the cities we visited. Right in the center of the action, no car required.
Nothing’s perfect, and there’s plenty of negative hotel, Airbnb, hostel and VRBO stories out there. You can avoid a poor experience by researching the hostel before your trip. Read the reviews on blogs and other sites, then choose and book with confidence.
The idea of booking hostels for families deserves a second look for budget-conscious and adventurous travellers. Hostels are viable and affordable accommodation options for family travellers. It’s a great opportunity to meet other travellers, have an adventure with your kids, and save travel dollars along the way. The best part? You don’t have to sacrifice comfort, cleanliness, privacy or fun by enjoying a hostel stay.
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Photo Credits: Shutterstock, Hostelworld